They were part of Pacific Union International when Compass announced its acquisition of the brokerage in August (the transaction was completed in late September), but quickly decided it wasn’t the right fit, and left last week, in late November. 

A highly productive Bay Area real estate team is defecting from Compass-owned Pacific Union to join Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, just three months after the New York City-founded brokerage announced its acquisition of PacUnion.

Slava and Geoffrey Nelson, the husband and wife duo behind Nelson Luxury Real Estate Group, closed more than $40 million in transactions in the past 12 months, including a $13.75 million Hillsborough estate recently. They were the first agents to open Pacific Union’s office in Burlingame, a northern Silicon Valley city.

Geoffrey and Slava Nelson. (Credit: Coldwell Banker)

They were part of Pacific Union International when Compass announced its acquisition of the brokerage in August (the transaction was completed in late September), but quickly decided it wasn’t the right fit, and left last week, in late November.

“We were disenchanted,” Geoffrey Nelson told Inman. “We were shocked.”

“The thing about Pacific Union and the thing about Coldwell Banker is, they’re legendary real estate companies,” Nelson added. “We’re agents who like architecture, we like houses, we like talking to clients about their interior design, we like real estate. The emphasis shifted away from real estate a little bit I thought, it kinda was getting depersonalized.”

Following this article’s publication, a Compass spokesperson provided the following statement to Inman: “This team never completed onboarding with Compass.”

Inman pressed Nelson for more details on why he wasn’t happy at Compass, or if he’s noticing a lot of agent churn, but he declined to comment further. Nelson explained that he didn’t want to speak badly about another company and instead would rather focus on Coldwell Banker.

Prior to the acquisition, the two brokerages were Bay Area-rivals, trading jabs over market share. Compass acquired Pacific Union International by paying Fidelity National Financial, which owned a 62 percent take in the company, $43 million in cash and an additional $27 million from an earn out if the company meets undisclosed metrics. It was a move that, at the time, was not well-received by all inside Pacific Union International.

Nelson told Inman that he and his wife chose Coldwell Banker because it’s a legendary brand that has withstood the ups and downs of the real estate market. He also believes the familiarity brings back some of the personal touch that was lost at Compass.

“We’re talking about a market that’s been a huge frothing seller’s market, for whatever you want to say, five years, and we have a lot of players that are coming in that don’t know about dynamic real estate markets,” Nelson said. “And this is a company that has been here. It’s a legendary brand in this market or any market.”

“I do think the familiarity of the brand does make it more personal,” Nelson added. “It brings it into a more personal perspective in everyday familiarity rather than being a computer transaction or a spreadsheet, or a data point.”

Another benefit for Nelson is that he can market himself and his wife as Nelson Luxury Real Estate Group, as opposed to just being agents. Nelson and his team will be utilizing luxury marketing through the Coldwell Banker Global Luxury program and plan to grow the team beyond just he and his wife.

He said with Coldwell Banker, which has given he and his wife full creative freedom, it’s the best of both worlds – he can work on a boutique, hyper-local level and still have the backing of Coldwell Banker and Realogy, the nation’s largest real estate holding company.

“We’ve got the creativity to market that and run with the Nelson Luxury Real Estate Group name and then we’ve got this huge company behind us with the best offices, the best familiarity in the sphere of our neighborhoods,” Nelson said. “Say what you want about other brokerages, but there’s not this kind of national, or international leverage, that this particular company has.”

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has a massive footprint throughout Northern California, with more than 4,000 affiliated agents in 56 offices.

“Geoffrey and Slava Nelson’s passion for real estate and dedication to their clients perfectly align with Coldwell Banker’s standard of excellence,” Mike James, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage said in a statement. “We look forward to watching them grow their existing business in new and strategic ways.”

Email Patrick Kearns

Editor’s note: This story has been updated after publication to clarify that the Nelsons departed from Pacific Union following the Compass acquisition, but prior to completing their onboarding with Compass. 

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